Snowboarder’s Gear List — #SkiTheBig3 Alaska

Post by blogger | July 18, 2014      

Editor’s note: Part of the formula for a successful expedition is knowing what gear to take. For human powered backcountry adventures, it’s a challenge to bring all the essential items while keeping backpack weight reasonable. Throw in the goal to conquer three major peaks during one trip to Alaska and packing becomes rocket science. The success of ‘SkiTheBig3 awed us. Here’s the list of gear that accompanied snowboarder Aaron Diamond during that outstanding mission.

After weeks of ice and slog, Aaron finally finds some good snow.

Aaron testing gear on Denali.


163 Jones Solution split board. Reasonably light with some tip and tail rocker, it handles the variable conditions we’ve found on the trip pretty well. I’m still looking for my perfect board, but this is pretty close.

Dynafit Speed Radical toes. Combined with a Spark R&D adapter these mount easily onto the split board. With only toe pieces and a 163 board on my feet for touring I had the lightest skinning setup on the trip.

Bomber bails and Voile plates. Yup, the old tele binding bails. These go in my pack for the uphill and come out for the downhill. Stiff and burly but heavier than some of the other hard boot binding options out there.

Voile Tractor Skins. All nylon for better grip when hauling sleds.


Dynafit TLT6 Mountain (sized up and run without the tongues). The Dynafit “Ultralock” walk/ski mode seems much simpler and more easily repaired than other brands, and the boot seems to fit my foot better than its predecessor TLT5. I’ll be tweaking this boot a bit more to make it lighter and a bit warmer. Overall the TLT6 fits the bill for a snowboarder.

Intuition Dreamliners (sized up). Big, cushy, and warm. Intuition delivers a great product once again. Only downside is that in my sleeping bag they smell bad… really, really bad. Tips for molding them here.

40 Below Fresh Tracks Overboots. These have to be modded to accommodate the tech fitting on your boots. With a knife and some seam grip the whole process takes less than 10 minutes. I’ve been using these above 13k and my feet have been warm for the whole trip. Read Lou’s detailed review here.

Technical gear

Black Diamond Cyborg crampon. I opted to bring my slightly more technical crampons and axes on this trip mainly because I wasn’t sure exactly what sort of conditions we would encounter on Hunter. In retrospect an aluminium crampon would have fit the bill better and weighed less, but the frontpoints came in handy leading the bit of technical ice.

Petzl Aztar ice tools. They don’t plunge as well as a straight shafted tool but they swing like a dream. I brought a hammer and adze.

Black Diamond Whippet. I mainly carry this for arresting a crevasse fall. Also handy for moderate snow climbing. Detailed review here.

Black Diamond Couloir harness. Another new piece of gear for me for this trip having previously come from an Alpine Bod. A couple pluses and minus compared to the Bod. Pluses are it’s lighter, packs down smaller, and has a belay loop (Pretty handy for kiwi coils) on the down side I tend to have a hard time with the buckle when I have gloves on and I’d like 2 more gear loops. Detailed review here.

Glacier gear – Assorted locking and non locking binders, a foot, waist and 2 ratchet prusiks, 2 Black Diamond express screws (13cm and 22cm), and a V-thread tool.



Patagonia Mixed Guide Pants. I’ve been on the soft shell pants train for a number of years. These pants have a some reinforcement around the knees/lower leg and butt. A popular classic for high output activities in less than perfect weather.

Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket. Gore-Tex Pro Shell in a well designed jacket. Perfect for climbing above 13k.

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody. Probably my favorite jacket for 90% of my ski touring trips in Wyoming and the lower 48. Extremely breathable and windproof. Unfortunately not warm enough to stand alone above 13k but perfect for conditions lower down.


Patagonia DAS Parka. Warm and burly. I brought a heavier down jacket but didn’t use it much since the DAS has been plenty warm, even on the top of Foraker.

Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Parka. This jacket fits the bill for the cold (-25F with moderate wind) we encountered on our summit day on Denali. I also wore it for the overnight bivy on Hunter. Too warm for the majority of the time but when you need it there’s no alternative.

Patagonia Nano Puff Vest. I usually throw this on as a mid layer when a base layer and shell aren’t quite cutting it. Packs down small and doesn’t way much. I always carry it.

Western Mountaineering Down Pants. The material the pants are made out of is prone to ripping quite easily. Great for sitting around camp, probably not so good for climbing in without a baggy shell pant over it.

Western Mountaineering Expedition Booties. Warm with a knee high Windstopper upper make these great for hanging around camp.


Black Diamond Punisher Gloves. My favorite glove ever. Dexterous for all of the rope work without sacrificing warmth. I usually get about 100 days out of a pair before holes start to form.

Kinco Leather Work Gloves. Not the warmest gloves ever but they are cheap and with a coat of Snow Seal once in awhile they last forever. My current pair have around 150 days and show no signs of stopping.

Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Mitts. I can’t do much of anything with these on my hands but they’ll keep my hands warm even when hell freezes over.

Base layers/hats/socks/etc

I brought an assortment of base layers ranging from muscle shirt super thin type layers to expedition weight wool tops and bottoms. Various brands as well as Capilene and wool. The Outdoor Research stuff seems to be holding up the best.

Hats – Again, I brought an assortment ranging from my trusty Ski Arpa trucker hat to a heavy wool hat. When things get really nasty outside I pair them up with a Buff and a Patagonia balaclava.

Bern helmet. New for me on this trip. Great for skiing but hits my pack when I’m climbing and looking up causing it to slide down over my eyes.

Darn Tough socks. Even sitting around camp I can’t wear a heavy sock without my feet sweating. I use the ultra thin ski sock for just about everything. I haven’t been able to put a hole in them yet either. Without a doubt these are the best socks on the market. Read Lou’s detailed review here.

Sleeping system

Mountain Hardwear Ghost -40 sleeping bag. I’m not a “warm” or a “cold” sleeper and I’ve slept in this thing down to -40 and the temp rating seems spot on. The Event shell gives me a little more peace of mind when it comes to keeping the down dry over such a long period of time — or during an unexpected night out. Only downside is that it doesn’t pack down small compared to the other bags on this trip.

Thermarest Neo-air. I’ve been using this as a stand alone winter pad for the past 2 years. Packs down smaller than a Nalgene and is super warm even without a foam pad beneath it.

Pack and sled

Mystery Ranch G-7000. For those of you familiar with Mystery Ranch you know they are known for making burly packs that carry extremely well. Unfortunately they aren’t the lightest packs in the world, but they work. The G-7000 is huge and fits everything and more. I’ve yet to fill it up. The heavily padded waist belt makes carrying heavy loads a breeze (or at least as close to a “breeze” as possible) and it’s not over the top in features. I’ve found the external pockets extremely handy to keep my crampons in to make transitions quick and easy.

Mountainsmith Sled. This was a loaner from a friend in Jackson who has better things to do in May and June than haul pig 7000ft uphill in Alaska. Rigid poles rigged to the waist belt of my pack with quick links make this sled side-hill quite well. A rope rigged on the front (similar to the drop chain on a patrol sled) acts as a brake for terrifying split ski descents. Sleds are an ongoing issue with Denali expeditions. They work well at low angles, but tend to be inefficient, downright torturous or even dangerous when the going gets steep or crevassed. More, nobody makes the ideal Denali sled. Read about Lou’s pulk mods here.

Patagonia Black Hole duffel. Another 100l of storage for stuff I don’t want to put on my pack. A couple pieces of webbing and some buckles keep this thing in my sled.

Avy stuff

Ortovox S1 beacon. Ortovox S1 beacon – The same beacon I’ve had for years. The processor is not as fast as some of the other beacons on the market but I love the display for multiple burials. Detailed review here.

Black Diamond Guide probe. 300cm long and metal. Just what the doctor ordered when you’re trying to figure out exactly where that crevasse ends or where your buddy is buried.

BCA Chugach Pro shovel. Moves snow like no other shovel on the market. Also probably weighs more than any other shovel on the market.


GSI Fairshare mug with 40 below insulator. I eat a lot; this mug holds a lot. A match made in heaven.

Spoon and fork from my kitchen – I’ll get a bit weight weenie on some things but for a 45 day trip I didn’t want to have to eat with a spork. I’m also too cheap to buy nice titanium ware.

Nalgene water bottle with insulators. I brought a 1.5 and 1 liter bottles with a 40 Below and Outdoor Research insulators. Most days these start full and I return with about a half liter.

Klean Kanteen bottle. This stays at camp and has become my hot drink and sleeping bag bottle. The sippy top makes it less likely I Exxon-Valdez all over my sleeping bag in the middle of the night.

Last but not least…

Crazy Creek. I think I’d literally go crazy without this thing. Makes sitting around much more comfortable and saves my back for carrying heavy packs. (Editor’s note: Mandatory expedition gear for any trip longer than a week.)

(‘SkiTheBig3 was an Alaskan ski mountaineering expedition cooked up by four deprived (or perhaps depraved?) guys who never get enough ski and snowboard alpinism. Aaron Diamond, Evan Pletcher, Anton Sponar, Jordan White. The crew skied Denali, Mount Foraker, and Mount Hunter all during one expedition.)


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


25 Responses to “Snowboarder’s Gear List — #SkiTheBig3 Alaska”

  1. Josh July 18th, 2014 9:58 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I am wondering if there are many other splitboarders out there rocking Dynafits. I am amazed that he claims to have had the lightest setup on the trip.

    I’ve always toured with soft boots, but as I get into longer trips and more alpine terrain I wonder if it is worth considering making the switch, both for weight and for having a hard boot for mountaineering purposes.

  2. dan July 18th, 2014 11:25 am

    Josh-there is an ever growing number of us hardboot kooks out there.

    phantom splitboard bindings are the best hardboot option out there. light years ahead of bomber, or voile plate cobble jobs.

    also in the never ending quest for the perfect board I would highly suggest checking out Chimera Snowboards. So far they have been the best thing i’ve ridden.

    Cool post! Always glad to see some splitboard love on wildsnow

  3. Hank July 18th, 2014 12:14 pm

    Wonder if it’s worth considering? Wonder no more…

  4. chris July 18th, 2014 3:02 pm

    lots of splitboarders on dynafits…check out phantom splitboard bindings!

    would love to see an article on the phantoms lou!

    i was up at kahiltna bc the same time as you guys, laying down the spine lines on annie’s ridge. i too was on dynafits.

    i was very impressed by the magnitude of your trip! so awesome!

  5. Josh July 19th, 2014 3:36 am

    Thanks for the pointers guys.

    A few follow-ups: I have never hardboot boarded on anything other than an old carving board (on piste). How do you find the Dynafit setup for riding powder and variable conditions? Equally enjoyable as a soft boot? Seems to me like would be sacrificing there.

    Similarly, I’ve always found having soft boots to be a major advantage in terms of comfort, which means I am more willing to spend all day out in the mountains with my boots on. Should I not worry about this?

    On the other hand, I assume that the hardboots provide a serious advantage for side hilling on the ascent.. one of the places where I really find my soft boot + spark bindings are not a great tool for the job. Is this assumption correct?

    Similarly while soft boots + crampons works ok, I’d see hard boots being a major advantage there too.

    In any case, hopefully I can find a way to at least test out a Dynafit setup soon 🙂

  6. Jordan July 19th, 2014 8:05 am

    Alright Lou et all,
    Aaron and I constantly had this debate on the glacier while he was bragging about his setup being the lightest (albeit minimal difference). My claim is that he has to weigh his entire setup, not just board and toe pieces. Just because he carries those 5 lbs of plates for the downhill in his pack doesn’t mean they don’t count towards his overall setup weight correct? Am I right?

  7. Zach July 19th, 2014 8:24 am

    TLT boots are the go to hard boot for splitboard mountaineering. By far the best binding for it is the Phantom Splitboard Binding.

  8. Aaron July 19th, 2014 9:31 am

    Seems like Im behind the times on my binding choice. I had heard rumors of a Spark hardboot binding in the works and was holding out before upgrading.

    Josh- I converted to hardboots before the newer soft boots with heal welts and lugged soles so my softboot comparisons might be a little off but here we go.

    Riding a hard boot in variable conditions is much less forgiving and if you dont stay balanced and on top of your board it will buck you…quickly. I dont notice any real difference in good snow although numerous people have told me they dont like hard boots because they feel less “surfy”

    A good bootfitter can make hard boots comfy. For me, the stiffness of the boot allows me a pretty lose fit.

    The uphill is where the hardboot really accels.
    -They have a greater range of motion than a soft boot setup (Great for skiing in mellow cramponing)
    -Much greater lateral stability on firm skintracks.
    -Dynafits have a more efficient stride than the sparks and other softboot setups
    -Hardboots make front pointing much easier and save your calves.
    -Hardboots take all sorts of crampons from straps to full auto

    If youre just touring around and riding powder its probably not worth going with a hard boot. If you want to start more technical mountaineering stuff (expecially with ice or mixed climbing involved) a hardboot setup is defiantly worth consideration.

    Any of you hardbooters given any of the raceboots (aliens, DyNA’s etc) a try?

  9. XXX_er July 19th, 2014 9:50 am

    “Just because he carries those 5 lbs of plates for the downhill in his pack doesn’t mean they don’t count towards his overall setup weight correct? Am I right?”

    The weight you must lift ON your feet is what slows you down with every step on the up, the binding parts that can be taken off & stashed in a pack are just another piece of gear compared to skiing its cheating kind of

  10. Jordan July 19th, 2014 9:52 am

    But it’s still overall gear weight!

  11. XXX_er July 19th, 2014 11:31 am

    Binding plates in the pack are definatley part of overall gear weight for the trip but so is a bottle of tequila, the key difference is that any weight ON THE FEET must be moved on each step

    I quantified real differences between my heavier ( alpine boot/FR+/fat twin) & lighter AT (full dynafit) ski setups in repetitive training over a set distance which I found to cost me >10% in time.

    I doubt skiing the light setup with the extra 5-10 lbs of weight in my pack would have cost me as much time as that weight did on my feet

  12. Lou Dawson July 19th, 2014 5:49 pm

    Jordan, yeah, I’d say the plates count but since they’re in the backpack let’s just count 1/2 their weight in total? Or, since the splitboard takes energy to do mode changes, perhaps count total? This sounds like a perfect debate for WildSnow in July (grin). Lou

  13. Chris July 19th, 2014 6:12 pm


    I think you’ll find tlt’s more comfortable to be in all day. You can stand strait up in them which you can’t do in soft boots because of the forward lean built into them.

    The trade off with hb setups is more in airs and tweaking type maneuvers, which is not really what most people go for when using hb’s.

    I think it’s great to have a quiver, soft boots for freestyle type powder pillow laps, and hb’s for mountaineering and long tours.

  14. lederhosen42 July 20th, 2014 10:45 am

    Dear XXX_er: out of curiosity, did the 10 percent time difference with different gear setups match a SUBJECTIVE difference in output effort and suffering? Personally, i’ve found that heavier setups do increase time but other factors such as fatter skis offering a more stable ‘step’ and positive traction with more skin coverage in deeper snow result in LESS SUBJECTIVE effort and more subjective flow and glisse bliss in deeper and more variable snow conditions. I will acknowledge that heavier setups do result in the fatigue curve being pulled to the left in a time/effort chart but only if the day was focused on charging and not rest stepping or “half the stride arrive revived”ing… 😉

  15. Buell July 20th, 2014 5:14 pm

    Josh, AT boot splitboarding is completely different from riding snowboard hardboots on groomers. The boots splitters choose are lightweight, low profile, have lots of flex, and walk and skin really well. They are very comfortable to travel in all day in the back country. You can modify them to be as flexible as soft boots, although the flex patterns are slightly different. They ride very well in all conditions, including powder and variable snow. It is a bit more of a “process” to get things dialed than soft boots though.

    The softer flexing models of AT boots work best for splitting. The best ones for most riders at the moment seem to be the Dynafit TLT5 and 6. At a minimum, many of us modify the walk / ride bar to give us the forward flex we need for snowboarding. There are also a few modifications you can make to the lateral and medial flex to soften those up too.

    The Phantom bindings have built in lateral flex and are typically ridden with inward cant to put the rider in a more neutral position. They are far superior and much lower to the board compared to AT boot binding systems mounted on Voile plates and pucks. They also lock the two board halves together much tighter than Voile hardware. has a number of threads on the TLT boots, AT boot modifications, and Phantom bindings

  16. Rob July 21st, 2014 10:06 am

    Seems pretty clear that he had the “lightest under-foot uphill” setup.

  17. XXX_er July 21st, 2014 10:23 am

    “Dear XXX_er: out of curiosity, did the 10 percent time difference with different gear setups match a SUBJECTIVE difference in output effort and suffering?”

    I trained the 4.2 km ski-out-to-town a lot where I was able to quantify my speed up the same groomed easy ski run with no variables except the gear and perhaps a hangover ? 😉

  18. David July 21st, 2014 10:27 am

    I’m a splitter but I pretty much agree w/ Jordan that for the silly weight argument, it’s the overall weight that matters. Although having less weight on the feet for the climb while skinning is awesome, when you switch to booting/climbing it’s the overall weight that everyone must carry. At least for mountaineering objectives where you are climbing a significant portion of the time, the overall weight metric makes sense.

    Aaron’s sliders were quite heavy relative to other options though (as well as his shovel, probe and a few other items).

    Nice write up and great work.

  19. Aaron July 22nd, 2014 1:36 pm

    To clear things up; by “lightest skinning setup” I only ment boots, splitboard, dynafits and skins. I think it looking at the rest of my gear choices its pretty obvious that my pack was far from light (as David pointed out above) and that an extra pound or 5 in there wouldnt have made much of a difference.

    Anybody got a pair of phantoms I can demo? 🙂

  20. chris July 22nd, 2014 7:28 pm


    contact john keffler (owner and bulder of the phantoms) through phantom’s fb page or “keffler” on

    i bet he’ll let you demo a pair for a while, especially if you do something as gnarly as the “big 3” again.

  21. Buell July 23rd, 2014 9:22 pm

    Aaron, I let John know about this thread and he said to get in touch with him if you want to check out some Phantom bindings. His email is

    Amazing work in Alaska. Congratulations.

  22. Aaron July 24th, 2014 12:24 pm

    Thanks guys!

  23. Aaron July 24th, 2014 12:33 pm

    Any of you hardbooters given any of the raceboots (Aliens, DyNA’s etc) a try?

  24. Buell July 24th, 2014 2:53 pm

    I have not seen any mention of an AT splitter trying the more race oriented boots. It would certainly be nice weight wise.

    Two important characteristics that help make a good AT splitboard boot are softer and consistent flex (in most directions) and an easy to modify forward lean.

    A lot of race boots I have seen have a fair bit of carbon which will likely be too stiff to snowboard well. A softer lateral flex is really important. I am pretty sure the Scarpa Alien (non carbon version) has a very similar walk / ride mechanism as the F1 which is very difficult to modify for a softer forward flex.

    You did not mention if you modify your boots for riding in any way. If you do ride unmodified AT boots, and the Alien has enough flex for you, then it will possibly work well. I know one rider who only changed to a softer tongue on a pair of ScarpaF1s and otherwise he rides them stock. I found the F1s too stiff stock.

  25. Aaron July 30th, 2014 3:54 pm

    I had my old La Sportiva boots modified to give me a softer forward flex but due to the timing of the Big 3 trip with another trip I didnt get any time to do any work on the TLT6. Ill have to get on over to and see what you guys are up to.

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